Hopes and Fears of Sydney's '08 Coordinator

Auxiliary Bishop Fisher on the Next World Youth Day

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COLOGNE, Germany, AUG. 22, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Auxiliary Bishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney has complex feelings about his role as the new coordinator for World Youth Day 2008, scheduled for the Australian city.

The 45-year-old prelate has been heading up an «observations squad» comprised of 25 Catholic-events management professionals, over the past two weeks, with an eye toward 2008. The squad included politicians as well as managers of the 2000 Olympic Games.

Q: We’ve just heard […] about all the ups and downs that Germany had to deal with for this event [World Youth Day]. How do you feel about the responsibility of your new role?

Bishop Fisher: I feel both extremely excited and terrified at the same time. I think that it’s a wonderful opportunity for us, but it’s obviously of a scale that normally no one deals with in their ordinary life. So in terms of just its sheer scale, it will probably be the biggest thing I will do in my life.

I’m awed by that and very honored to be part of such a thing — knowing that I’m going to have to rely on a team of a number of other people to make it happen.

Q: Speaking of teams, we’ve noticed that Sydney has a pretty strong one up and running already, if I’m not mistaken.

Bishop Fisher: We’ve been working for two years on preparing the bid for Rome as we didn’t want to present a bid that was half-baked.

We thought that if we did all the research we could on what would be involved in terms of the costs and facilities and whether they’re interested in coming to Australia, etc. — that if we couldn’t manage to do it really well, we wouldn’t do it at all, because it would mean stopping someone else from having done it maybe better than us.

After all the research, though, and visits back and forth from Cologne and Rome over the last year to continue conversation and learning, we saw clearly that we could feasibly do it well.

Q: What sort of assistance have you had from the German crew in your investigations?

Bishop Fisher: The Germans have been so helpful and forthcoming in handing over all their secrets to us, in letting us visit their offices, shadow them, be photographing them, questioning their workers all the way through over these two weeks.

This is remarkable, especially as it can be frustrating in those rushed final moments — I mean, you don’t want someone asking you how to bake a turkey when you’re laying down Christmas dinner.

Just to give an example: On Friday they gave us about two or three hours’ worth of explanation and tours of the security and policing, medical facilities and hazard controls, etc. They’ve been very helpful.

Q: What really stood out to you in Cologne that you will want to take back to Sydney?

Bishop Fisher: I think that Cologne has set the bar very high. Those events of the vigil and the Mass were really very beautiful liturgies and young people responded accordingly, which is certainly a challenge for me for the future. That’s not to say that I’m not confident in Sydney’s own gifts [that] it brings to the table.

Just its experience of big events makes it ahead of the game when it comes to organizing a thing of this magnitude.

Q: You mention the spiritual elements as being vital to the success of the event. What is the unique spirituality that Australia might offer those visiting this land?

Bishop Fisher: Since we don’t have, for instance, the three kings buried in our Sydney cathedral as an attractive shrine, what we do have locally is ordinary natural beauty and then the distinct friendly character of Australians and their culture.

I think that those famous Aussie characteristics of fairness and giving everyone an opportunity are inherent qualities that echo the Gospels. They are signs of our distinct Christian heritage which is often forgotten.

People speak of Australia as being a secular society. Well, that’s not entirely the case. … Secularism is one competing worldview amongst others on offer in the nation and there’s doubt of its encroaching on certain places, even within the Church. But at the same time, one would have to say how Christianity is encroaching on society in all sorts of places, including what some might call more-secular realms.

There is no doubt that there are rival voices out there competing for people’s hearts and minds and offering them different visions of a good life and a good community, and we’re absolutely confident that we have something wonderful to offer and that young people will want to come and have a look.

I don’t imagine it’s going to be the magic solution that everyone in Australia is going to want to be a high-octane Catholic after the WYD. But I have no doubt that for many people in the country and beyond, it will be a turning point in their lives.

And we are so privileged to be able to offer that to them.

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